Investment in Education, Economic Development and Family Units
Underfunded schools and politicized administrative structures make it difficult for rural Thai schools to achieve standards of quality in education. Coupled with weak family structures at home, youth are often left with little motivation or means to complete their secondary education.
Many Thai youth drop out as early as sixth grade (bratom 6). Of those able to continue through the compulsory ninth grade year (mathayom 3), few go on to finish a twelfth year (mathayom 6). Early drop-outs are generally based on some combination of financial constraints/family pressure to work, peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, or a lack of motivation based on a low expectation of success.
Though many parents and guardians are often willing to make sacrifices to send the next generation to school, many Thai children face pressure to help provide for their family, particularly in the event they have siblings to care for. Many of these youth are from broken families — often raised by grandparents as parents leave to find work elsewhere — and have witnessed others in their family sacrifice education and dreams by economic necessity. Many youth feel that they are destined to the same fate.
The Breakthrough team believes education is a key cornerstone in sustained change and development of Isaan communities.
Education activities include:
- Residential supplemental education and leadership training for at-risk teen girls
- School partnerships, including guest teaching and teacher placements in local schools
- Supplemental educational activities for village children and teens, including weekend and after-school tutoring programs
- Community center “living room” — including a growing library, music lessons, ping pong and games — providing a safe hangout for village youth
The Northeast (Isaan) region of Thailand is considered the “rice basket” of Thailand, but is also the poorest region of the country.
In order to curb the flow of migration of young men and women to Bangkok or other urban centers for work, the Breakthrough community looks to find and develop alternative employment mechanisms. Local employment allows men and women to stay with their families and raise their children rather than leaving them to be raised by grandparents or other family members.
Breakthrough looks to find or develop employment alternatives that:
- enable families to stay together
- capture and build on the local knowledge and creativity of Thai people
- create sustainable, competitive alternatives to migrating to urban centers
Breakthrough actively seeks partnerships with other organizations with experience in economic development.
Thai culture places an extremely high importance on family — a beautiful aspect of the country’s unique culture. This plays out most visibly in the form of Thais fulfilling financial responsibilities to care for family members, be it grandparents, parents, siblings or children. Faithfulness to this financial responsibility, however, has a flip side.
The pressure to provide financially often results in decisions to prematurely stop pursuing an education. It also often results in migration to larger urban centers where higher paying jobs might be found, resulting in geographic separation and, often, employment in the sex trade. Sometimes the migration comes out of financial necessity, sometimes from a broken relationship, and most often a combination of the two.
The result of this migration: cycles of broken families. Children are left to be raised by a grandparent or other relative, often seeing one or both of their parents only once or twice a year, if at all. Healthy role models are few and far between, and many youth are left to effectively raise themselves. Come time to decide whether to study or go find work, they often follow in the footsteps of their absent parents: work wins.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is… it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Breakthrough believes families can be restored in the following ways:
- Families remain together; mothers and fathers raise children rather than leaving them as infants to be raised by grandparents or other relatives
- Young men commit to integrity in relationships; the ubiquitousness of infidelity in Thailand is overturned
- Young women, and single mothers in particular, have economic alternatives that allow them to raise their children while earning